The Paris Review

Mermaids and Transgressive Sex: An Interview with Alexia Arthurs

How to Love a Jamaican, Alexia Arthurs’s first book, is a short-story collection that delves into the lives of people who have Jamaica in common. Whether it’s the place they currently live, the place they left, or the place their parents are from, Jamaica always forms some notion of home. And How to Love a Jamaican explores, in part, what it means to make and remake that conception of home. In this book, there’s no single way to be Jamaican—the definition of the word itself expands to encompass each person who claims it. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Arthurs has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review and Granta, among other publications. A story from the collection, “Bad Behavior,” first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The Paris Review and was awarded the 2017 Plimpton Prize. Arthurs and I spoke on the phone two days after the collection was published, about invisibility, the idea of “a better life,” mermaids, and more.  


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